Galicia, often known as the land of a thousand rivers, is in the northwestern corner of Spain, directly to the north of Portugal. The wild Atlantic coastline is characterised by high cliffs and deep fjord-like estuaries, known as rías. Two distinct coastal areas are generally known as Rías Altas, which are along the north-facing coast and Rías Bajas, facing out towards the western Atlantic. Between the two areas is the Costa de Morte, the Coast of Death – with Spain’s equivalent of Land’s End, Cabo Finisterre.
Inland Galicia is typically quite mountainous, although these are much smaller than the Pyrenees further east, generally being less than 2,000 metres high.
The region is divided into four separate provinces – Ourense, Pontevedra, Lugo and La Coruña and is generally sparsely populated – only seven of the area’s towns having more than 50,000 inhabitants. Vigo, with around 300,000 people, is the largest non-capital city in Spain.
Map of Galicia
History and Language of Galicia
Galicia is proud of its Celtic associations – the Celtic cross is very visible here – and the Celts lived here as far back as 3000 BC. The Romans and Visigoths played their part in the development of the area but the Moors had little influence. By the time of the Christian reconquest, the region had become very politically insignificant and economically impoverished, with its language, Galego, already dying out. During the nineteenth century, however, a gradual regeneration of the language took place and, despite being suppressed under Franco (who was born here), it is now widely spoken.
Galego is something of a mixture between Castellano and Portugese. Generally, the major differences are that the letter x normally replaces g and j – so Junta becomes Xunta. Also, ue is normally replaced by o so that puente becomes ponte. On local maps and signposts, place names are often different – occasionally substantially but often only slightly. For instance, to Galicians, La Coruña becomes A Coruña.
Economy of Galicia
There is a significant difference between the economy of the western coastal area of Galicia and the rest of the region. The west has a growing population, the significant fishing industry and the area’s major manufacturing concerns – including shipbuilding in Vigo and Ferrol. The remaining parts, however, especially the provinces of Lugo and Ourense, are still largely dependent on subsistence agriculture, with a decreasing population. Galicia is Spain’s leading producer of milk and eggs. The development of the airports at La Coruña and Santiago de Compostela, though, has been one of the factors behind the large increase in tourism in recent years and this is beginning to have a beneficial effect on the economy.
Climate of Galicia
The Galician climate has four genuine seasons, with temperatures ranging from about 5° in the winter to the low 20s in the summer. In the mountains it can be significantly colder in the winter. Spaniards know Galicia to be ‘the rainy region’; in fact, it is one of the few places where you can expect to see rain even during the summer months. There is less rain than in Britain but it is still wet enough to be easily Spain’s ‘greenest’ countryside. The summer climate has traditionally attracted many Spanish visitors who are keen to escape the often oppressive temperatures of the southern half of the country.See
See also: Galicia Tourism